Are You ‘Redeeming the Time’?
One day, I was busy with a project at home when my 4-year-old son came running in from outside. “Daddy, Daddy!” he said excitedly. “Would you please come help me ride my bike? Just for a little while?”
I stopped what I was doing and looked at him tugging at my trousers, and my emotions.
“Okay, I’ll come help you for a little while,” I said to Reagan, and off we went to fetch his bicycle and safety helmet.
Have you ever thought how important a “little while” of your time can be? By itself, a “little while”—perhaps only a few minutes—of your time may not seem all that important.
Isn’t it a common frustration to find time to do everything we need to do, let alone all the things we want to do? All of us should occasionally stop to ask ourselves whether we are using our time properly.
Consider: Time is one of our greatest assets. Each day we receive another precious 24 hours. From evening to evening, we are given another 1,440 minutes—or 86,400 seconds—of the valuable resource we call time.
Every person has as much time as the next—no matter what his station in life. Whether you are a factory worker or wealthy businessman, a farmer or executive, a schoolteacher or housewife, you have an equal amount of time each day.
Time is something that true Christians, living in the last hour of this present evil world, should be acutely aware of. But if we’re not careful, many seconds, minutes and hours will slip by unproductively. This is dangerous. Christ promised to bless only those who would actively prepare for His return to this Earth (Luke 12:40, 43).
Where can you find the time to be a growing Christian, a profitable servant for God? How can you find time for heartfelt prayer, engrossing Bible study with meditation, and meaningful time for your marriage and family—let alone time for yourself?
Redeem the Time
Through the inspired pen of the Apostle Paul, God cautions Christians to use time wisely, “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). In other words, we are to make the best use of our time.
The original Greek word translated “redeeming” in this verse literally means to buy up. Are you “buying up” every moment available to you each day? Are you making the most of each and every opportunity to grow in Christian character?
Think about it: Managing your time means managing your life. After all, time is plainly “the stuff life is made of,” as Benjamin Franklin said.
You either use your time wisely, or you squander it. You either “buy up”—and gainfully use—time as it is given to you, or you waste it. Wasted time is irretrievable; it cannot be “bought back”!
How we use our time reveals a lot about our character. It shows where our heart is (Matthew 6:21). Matters that are important to us will receive proper attention only if we first learn how to use our time wisely.
This involves prioritizing.
The May 1985 Good News made this comment: “As Christians, we are given biblical priorities, and our time must be carved out to fulfill that calling. When there is a conflict of interest, something must go. A Christian will either live genuinely by what God requires or live superficially, doing a little bit of everything but not enough of anything. And God is not amused by religious lip service.”
That’s right! We must wisely use the time God graciously grants us each day by prioritizing, or suffer the consequences.
There are three major priorities we must put in a certain order, if we are to manage our time the way God intended us to. Let’s notice what these priorities are.
1. Time With God
The First Commandment requires that we put God first above all else. In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ reiterated this fact, promising also that if we put God first, then He will supply all our physical needs in this life (Matthew 6:33). Yet in this fast-paced society with so many demands on our time, finding adequate time for God can be an elusive goal.
How can you consistently make time for God each day?
Simple: You decide to. Each day you must determine to put “first things first.” You make a commitment that God comes first in your daily allocation of 24 hours.
In most cases, the best part of the day is first thing in the morning, when you are refreshed after a good night’s sleep. Otherwise you become quickly preoccupied with daily routine. You get ready for work, check the morning news, eat breakfast and then exclaim, “Oh, look at the time—I must hurry!” After work you come home and have a meal, do some chores, try to relax, then it’s bedtime and again you say, “Oh no, I haven’t prayed yet.” Feeling guilty, you kneel by the bed and try to pray to God—but your eyelids seem unusually heavy. Finally, you give up and flop into bed, thinking, “Well, I’ll just have to try to do better tomorrow.”
This is giving God the leftovers of your day! Notice what editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote about this in the November-December 1999 Royal Vision: “[Rule over the universe] isn’t something God will give to people who don’t really want to offer the best they have! Some think they can pray when they are half asleep. But God doesn’t want that lame sacrifice. He wants our best; He is a great King, the Lord of hosts.”
We need to give God the best part of our day! We need to give Him the first part of our day, not the leftover part! And this applies not only to prayer, but to Bible study as well.
Q: How can I ensure this happens?
After you rise each morning and are fully awake (a few stretching exercises and a shower may help), put prayer and Bible study first. Make it top priority. At least schedule it that way and strive to maintain it that way. Learn to adjust if interruptions occur. I’ve learned, for example, that small children can sometimes upset a schedule; but with flexibility and a little ingenuity, one can compensate for such interruptions by making up for missed prayer or study time during a lunch break or at the end of the day.
A practical suggestion for organizing your morning time is to allow yourself no more than one-half hour to rise, stretch, shave, shower, brush your teeth, comb your hair and get dressed. Next, get right to your prayer and study—for one full hour (and perhaps twice as long as this on the Sabbath day). Then, spend one-half hour having a leisurely, nourishing breakfast (with your family if possible), before heading off to work or getting involved with the day’s other activities.
If you can learn to follow the above suggestion, you will have to get out of bed only two hours before leaving for work! And you’ll have plenty of time to put “first things first.” You’ll be amazed at how much better your day will go if you make time for prayer and study first thing in the morning. And you’ll feel better and have freer use of the rest of the hours for yourself.
Q: What if I’m not a “morning person”?
The solution is simple: Adjust your schedule to fit your needs. Organize your time so that you’re able to spend quality time with God in the evening hours.
You could come home from work, have an enjoyable supper including conversation with your physical family and converse with your heavenly family through studying the Bible and praying at least one-half hour before going to bed. If you are diligent with the use of your time, you can do all this and still get a good night’s sleep!
Q: What if I’m a housewife with small children?
Busy mothers with small children often find their time is taken up with picking up after little ones. If your children tire you out and consume your free time, then decide to change the situation. You can begin training them, at an early age, to pick up after themselves. You can train them to take a nap at a certain time each day—and then take advantage of the free time you have, while they are sleeping, to do some prayer and study.
You can also “mat train” your children. “One helpful method is to sit small children down on a rug [or mat] with some books or toys and command that they stay there quietly. Discipline them lovingly but firmly for leaving the rug, until they follow your instruction. When they can stay in one place and play quietly for a while, you have some time to study, pray or use as you choose” (Good News, op. cit.).
As a housewife and mother of school-age children, you may have to rise early in the morning in order to fix breakfast (Proverbs 31:15) and help your husband get off to work and your children get to school on time. But as soon as this is accomplished, get your prayer and study in! Then, once you’ve given God the first part of your day, you can make a list of housework you want done and begin tackling it.
Most of your duties are probably somewhat routine and repetitious through the week, so make a weekly schedule. Decide what day (or days) you will clean the bathrooms, wash and iron clothes, do your shopping and other necessary duties. Of course, these duties will have to be planned around preparing meals and taking care of your family. It is important for a woman to be a good housekeeper (Titus 2:5).
Q: What if I still “don’t have time” to do everything?
Let’s face it. Redeeming the time sometimes involves sacrifice. What can you cut out of your life to make more time available to God? Take a candid look at how you spend your time—and learn to maximize your daily time with God through more efficient use of latent times and by cutting out the non-essentials in your routine. Arrange your life so you can spend profitable time every day with God.
In a rushed schedule, try these suggestions: Set a predetermined limit to the amount of time you relax, watch television or surf the Internet. Make a to-do list and stick to it. If something is not mentioned on it, either add it as a necessary activity or forsake it. If you commute on a bus or subway, use travel time to read Church literature. If you drive your own vehicle, take advantage of CD or cassette tape readings from the Bible. Take a moment at lunchtime for meditation and prayer in a quiet location. Another idea is to write out key scriptures on small cards, then practice committing them to memory. Carry them with you for free moments. Housewives, too, can keep scripture cards close by when sewing, washing dishes and ironing, or close to their main work area. You can also listen to recorded readings of the Bible as you clean house—or, if you own a portable headset, while you decorate, do your gardening or laundry.
Whether you are a man or a woman trying to follow the suggestions that pertain to you, don’t get flustered if something goes haywire. If you have an attitude of putting God first, He will help you in managing your time.
2. Time With Family
Throughout his 50-plus-year ministry, Herbert W. Armstrong taught about the real importance of family life (Malachi 3:1; 4:5-6). He explained how human families are mere types of God’s Family. Because family is so important to God, family time must be a major priority in our lives as well.
Mr. Armstrong explained the importance of nurturing the family, and how extreme preoccupation with careers, entertaining, service to others and social clubs—or even the Church—will not be acceptable excuses before God for having neglected our vital family responsibilities. He emphasized what Paul wrote: “[I]f any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an [unbeliever]” (1 Timothy 5:8). But what does it mean to “provide”? Much more than just seeing to your family financially, “providing” also means caring for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs. It is giving your time.
In his autobiography, former Chrysler Corporation president Lee Iacocca wrote, “No matter what you’ve done for yourself or for humanity, if you can’t look back on having given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished? Doing things for total strangers is great, but remember, giving starts at home” (Lee Iacocca’s Talking Straight).
It is important to show love toward our family members under all circumstances. What if your mate or family does not share your interest in God’s Word? Remember that Christians are called to bring peace in the home and to be good examples (1 Corinthians 7:15-16). Be careful not to neglect them, so that your conduct is exemplary before those who do not yet believe God’s way.
Find the right time to pray and study privately. You should find time to pray when unconverted family members are either away or preoccupied. We express love to them, not by running to our bedroom or closet to pray every time they come in the house, but by spending time in sincere, earnest prayer when they aren’t there. When they are home, that time can be used to show our love to them, to be an example of good Christian living. If we neglect the unconverted members of our family by spending excessive time in prayer when they are home, we will only succeed in driving them further from God, and our prayers will have been in vain.
Sometimes because we are so busy, we tend to place family time on the back burner in terms of priority. Make sure to schedule quality time with your wife and your children, as well as other relatives when possible. Have regular Bible studies with your family. Take walks together (which are especially nice in a place where you can enjoy God’s creation). Talk with each other! Schedule a game night from time to time.
God is a Family, and we were created to become part of that divine Family. God desires that we ultimately become unified in a close family relationship with Him. That is why He made us as social beings.
How much of a priority is family time in your life?
3. Time for Yourself
God said of the first human, Adam, that “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Why is it not good to be alone? Well, for one, even though we all need times of privacy, too much time alone tends to foster brooding introspection that focuses us too much on self.
However, everyone needs some “space” now and then—time to be alone; time to slow down, rest and recuperate. And time to be in solitude to think and meditate on what is truly important in life, and our divine purpose for existing.
Understand that time is needed for quiet reflection and meditation. To work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), you must make and take personal time.
Jesus set for us a perfect example in all things so that we could follow in His footsteps. One time, after His 12 disciples had returned from an unusually grueling stint of traveling and working, so much so that they didn’t even have time to eat proper meals, Christ instructed them to go away, by themselves, to a remote place where they could rest awhile (Mark 6:31).
We do need to strive to live balanced lives, exercising moderation in all things (Philippians 4:5). There is a time to commune with God, a time to be with family, a time to work, a time to play, and a time to be alone.
Take time to “stop and smell the roses.” If you are a workaholic or a chronic entertainer and socialite, evaluate whether all such pursuits are helping your relationship with God, your mate or your family.
Take stock of your life. Analyze your accomplishments. Decide what you want to do with your future and fix the right goals.
The job-hunting manual What Color Is Your Parachute? offers a practical exercise to help you decide what you want to do with your life: Write an article or essay titled “Before I Die, I Want To …” and be sure to write down all the things you’d like to do before the end of your physical life. Perhaps this exercise will help you put things into perspective. You could even adapt this idea to pinpoint the spiritual goals in your life. Writing them down can be a first step toward achieving them.
Think big. Have vision. The Apostle Paul encouraged the Colossians to set their “affection on things above” (Colossians 3:2). When you put priority on spiritual goals, you will not waste precious moments “on things on the earth” (verse 2). It is the spiritual that should excite us. Lift your thoughts and practice occupying your mind with godly thoughts and consider the divine purpose for man.
Don’t just let life pass you by. Start redeeming the time now by taking a proactive approach. After the first two major priorities are met, carve out some time for yourself.
What Are You Waiting for?
If you’ve read this far and you find that you still don’t have enough time, then ask yourself the following questions:
What am I doing now that really doesn’t need doing? Eliminate the unnecessary.
What am I doing that could be done just as well by someone else? Learn to delegate.
What am I doing that wastes my time or others’ time? (Have I observed that often what I put off I end up not doing anyway?)
Am I biting off more than I can chew, time-wise? Am I trying to cram too much into one day? Remember the importance of prioritizing. Break down big or hard tasks into smaller, manageable tasks.
Am I setting deadlines for what I want to do? Or am I just drifting through life, with no plans, no schedules, and no organization?
Do I have trouble saying no to people? One of the most effective timesaving techniques is learning to decline, tactfully but firmly. (Of course, we should be ready to assist others if an emergency arises, or give your child the attention he needs, but don’t let unimportant matters distract you.)
Focus on important relationships. Make time for prayer—it is the source of godly power. Make time for Bible study—it will gain you God’s mind. Make time for family—each day is too short to let it pass without sharing it with those closest to you. Make time to relax and reflect—it can help free your mind from clutter and from worries and stresses.
Take a hard look at your life. Don’t let your time keep slipping away. Remember, it is one of your most valuable resources for character growth. Frankly, there is no way to “save” time. All we can do with time is either use it profitably or waste it. So, think on these things—and use all your creative energies to come up with ways to “invest” your time as well as you can.
What will you do with your next 24 hours?
Redeem the time! What are you waiting for?